Learning to play a musical instrument is rewarding in many ways. Through music kids and adults can learn discipline, express creativity and find a healthy way to manage stress. For people who stick to it and get good at it, music might even become a career. But even among those who play just for fun, there are very few who regret bringing music into their lives. Every wannabe musician has to start somewhere, and that somewhere isn’t always so easy to figure out. There are so many different instruments out there, each with a strong set of pros and cons. If you don’t know much about music to begin with, how are you supposed to choose? Wht is the Best Instrument To Start With? or the easiest instrument to learn online?
It’s never too late to learn to play a musical instrument, or to take up a second if you already play one. But which one should you choose? If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to start learning a new instrument, or if a family member wants to take up music this Christmas, then we’ll take a look at the various types of instruments available and examine the pro’s and cons of each.
best instrument to start with
Keyboards and pianos
Pianos, electronic keyboards and electric organs all have black and white keys. Pressing each key produces a slightly different note to the previous one, and each keyboard has at least three or four octaves, or sets of notes running from A to G.
Making music with a keyboard is a simple matter of pressing the keys in the right order. Learning sequences of notes for a whole piece can be tricky, so try to learn to read music, but even there you can cheat a little. Some beginner keyboards come with the name of the note inscribed onto the keyboard, so you can easily find middle C – it is usually underlined or circled and is more or less central on the keyboard – and get started. These keyboards even come with the letters next to the correct musical notation, so you can begin to learn to read music even as you have fun picking out the tunes.
Pianos are huge – a piece of furniture in their own right, few people have room for a full-size piano in their homes. Even schools are dispensing with their pianos as space is reduced, fewer teachers know how to play, and technology provides an easy and space-saving fix. Keyboards too can be bulky – and those that aren’t tend to be too small to produce a good sound – so they are perhaps best for those who can learn at home, or who have a big enough car to fit their keyboard (with or without the stand) into it comfortably.
Pianos and keyboards are a very common choice for a beginner / Image: Jordan Whitfield, Unsplash
Wind instruments are quite common. This is because they tend to be economically priced, they are very readily portable and they are fairly easy to learn to play. Usually worked by stopping the flow of air through one or more of the holes in the tube of the instrument, it is powered entirely by the player’s breath. There is a sliding scale of difficulty in wind instruments, with recorders at one end and oboes at the other, perhaps the most difficult of all the wind instruments.
Perhaps, if you are skilled with other instruments and want to challenge yourself, an oboe is the instrument for you? Learning to play wind instruments requires the player to learn the notes by reading the music, and then aligning their fingers in the right configuration to create the desired airflow for those notes. Sometimes the player will have to move their fingers quickly, so this skill is excellent for building up hand-eye coordination and small muscle control.
Woodwind instruments, even the larger ones, tend to be slim and lightweight, fairly easy to transport to and from lessons or to and from performances. They are usually reasonably priced for musical instruments, so it is easy enough to buy one, or even replace it should it get broken or damaged.
The sound of woodwind played badly can be quite shrill and wearing to the nerves of others in the house, which can mean that practising too much is forbidden! Because woodwind instruments are operated by mouth, they can be prone to picking up saliva and bacteria from the mouth. The instruments must be kept scrupulously clean to ensure that they do not harbour growths of yeast, bacteria and even mould: all of which can make a player ill.
Woodwind instruments can be fairly cheap / Image: Jens Thekkevettil, Unsplash.
easiest instrument to learn online
From guitars to violins and everything in between, stringed instruments are complex, carefully engineered instruments. Often made by hand, high-quality stringed instruments are delicate and each has a subtly different tone. This is why some violins, for example, can be valued at millions of pounds. Electric guitars are tougher, and can handle some rough treatment by rockers, but they still require careful tuning to get the best sound from them. Learning to play stringed instruments varies from instrument to instrument, but most use both hands simultaneously for different tasks, which can be a challenge to the coordination! Mastering a stringed instrument is something to be very proud of.
Stringed instruments are well-known and are readily available when you are looking for somewhere to begin. Once mastered, it is a skill that can be put onto a CV, especially if you are looking to work in music.
Stringed instruments are invariably expensive and delicate. They are also quite hard to learn – just holding the instrument properly is not as easy as it sounds!
Being able to play string instruments such as the violin is a useful skill to have / Image: Providence Doucet, Unsplash
Percussion instruments take a number of forms, from the most primitive – whacking two sticks together or banging on a hollow space to make a sound – to the most sophisticated drum set. You can even get electronic drums which are physically small but make a very big sound indeed.
Is there a more fun instrument than the drums? / Image: Josh Sorenson, Unsplash.
Drumming is fun. It is one of the instruments that most people understand easily early on, and getting drumming right is a great way to boost your mood and that of those all around you.
However, playing the drums properly is not just a matter of bashing away with drumsticks. Often all four limbs are involved, each following a different beat or counterpoint, so the whole piece requires intense concentration and a good level of physical fitness. Plus, of course, you have to deal with those few people who dismiss your talents with, ‘Oh, drums? I could play the drums if I wanted to…’ or similar remarks!
If you feel drawn to a particular instrument, that is the one that you should choose to learn: aim to challenge yourself without forgetting to have fun as you progress through your lessons.
Types of Musical Instruments
Musical instruments can be categorized depending on the way they generate sound. All musical instruments fall under one of the following – string, wind, percussion and keyboard, though there may be further divisions and sub-divisions.
Here are a few examples:
- String instruments include guitars, violins, ukuleles and cellos.
- Wind instruments include pipes, sax, clarinet, flute and such other types.
- Drums, bongos, cymbals and bells are percussion instruments.
- Keyboard instruments include pianos, harpsichords, organs and accordions.
While these are the more commonly played musical instruments, over thousand musical instruments are available across the world, including folk instruments.
General Things to Consider Before Buying a Instrument
Here are some of the things that you should take into consideration before choosing a suitable instrument:
- The age of the student: The child needs to have developed motor skills to be able to play
- The character/personality of the student
- Your interests, the kind of music you want to play
- The cost, the amount of money you’re willing to spend
- The practicalities involved (such as size, portability, maintenance of the instrument)
Research Prices & Competing Stores
Do spend some time looking for instruments and their prices online; you can find some great deals online. Also, do check competing online stores. For instance, Amazon and Walmart are great for finding beginner instruments and toys for kids. Merchants like Amazon, zZounds, Musiciansfriends have wide range of instruments for pros. You will find great deals on guitars on sites like Guitar Center.
If you’re looking for an expensive instrument, do check it out at your local store as well. While you may not be able to get lower prices, you will be sure about the model that you have selected.
When buying online, see what accessories are included, and also factor in shipping costs.
Beginner Instruments for Students
The good thing about buying a new musical instrument is that you now have access to several products that are available for cheap. These are designed for beginners and offer great features, are functional, but don’t cost much.
Although a student or beginner instrument is a cheaper version of what professionals play, these ‘cheaper’ instruments are not sub-standard products.
In fact, a good student instrument comes with several features that assist students to progress faster and also to enjoy music making.
These are easier to play, offer less resistance (string instruments), is easier to blow (wind instruments), for the inexperienced player. For example, a lower action on a guitar makes playing easier for the young or inexperienced hands.
Get Creative With Home Made Musical Instruments
Musical instruments can also be made at home using items of daily use (mostly percussion); this works great for kids.
You can make almost anything, from shakers and jingle bracelets to drums and tambourines. Its easier to make percussion instruments at home.
It turns out cheaper and you won’t feel bad if the kids break the toy instrument.
Homemade musical instruments help your child to be creative and can keep them busy. Kids will also have a great time, playing in their own band at home.
Are You Already a Player?
If you are already a player then you should avoid picking up the cheapest musical instrument.
Its best to go out and play all the instruments you can, and pick the one that appeals to your ears, suits your requirements and your budget (you should be open to increasing your budget a bit, in case you get hold of some really good musical instrument).
You should also go through the used gear/blemished gear section on top online merchants. You can find some really good instruments with minor bruises (but in perfectly working conditions) for good discounts.
Also Read: Buy used/blemished gear for cheap.
You can Buy, Rent or Borrow?
While everybody would love to buy a new musical instrument, in some cases its just not the practical thing to do.
You can always choose to buy a second-hand instrument.
Some music services (organizations contracted by the Local Authority to provide music tuition in state schools and at music centers) and schools offer instruments on loan to beginner students.
Then there are some (including some retailers) who operate rental systems. For a modest fee, they provide you a musical instrument for a trial period so that you get sufficient time to make up your mind.
The great thing about these options is that it allows you to get a feel of what is involved in learning, and how to take care of and maintain the instrument, before actually buying one.
In case you’re considering purchasing a second-hand instrument, make sure you check it for suitability, before it is used.
You Don’t Have to Buy the Most Expensive Instrument
Musical instruments can be expensive, especially if you are seeking the best option available on the market. In general, these can cost anything from $100 to over $10000. For example, a good Yamaha or Roland keyboard can cost almost $2000.
That is why used musical instruments are often a good choice, especially if you are learning to play a new instrument.
You definitely don’t have to buy the most expensive instrument out there. Choose something that fits your purpose. Feel free to consult a music teacher or a music shop.
Its important that the instrument is appropriate for your child, no matter how you intend to obtain it.
Most young string players, for example, begin learning on smaller sized instruments as they feel uncomfortable playing full-sized instruments (too large for them).
For beginners it is advisable to invest in musical instruments in the lower price range. However, you also should keep in mind that learning on a sub-standard instrument can be demotivating and usually prevents progress.
Don’t Go Too Cheap
If you’re buying an instrument for a child, you can pick a cheap one but for a serious beginner you want something better. A $50 cheap guitar is unlikely to last long and may not sound inspiring. And if it breaks down, you will have to buy another one (basically you will end up spending more money than you would spend buying a quality, new guitar).
A quality instrument costs more but it saves money in the long run and it will make you practice more.
Use the Power of Social Media
Have a huge social media presence? Do you (or your friend) manage social media accounts for some school, college or charitable institution? If yes, you can post that you’re looking for a music instrument and ask for help.
You never know; one of your followers might want to sell an instrument. In some cases, they might even give it for free (you will have to collect it though).
Having a huge online presence can help you find help in the online community.